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Boxing Goes ‘Downtown’ to NBC Saturday with Keith Thurman, Robert Guerrero

By Ivan G. Goldman

You might think Boxing Godfather Al Haymon can’t lose Saturday night. He’s pitting up-and-coming Keith Thurman against tough southpaw Robert Guerrero for the first show of the Premier Boxing Champions series, and he’s got contracts with both fighters.

But there are two ways Haymon can lose. First, Thurman — who’s Haymon’s candidate to eventually take over the big-money space now filled by Floyd Mayweather — could lose. Second, what if the fight’s a stinker? He needs to put on a good show to start the PBC series, which airs this time on NBC.

If you think about it, both negative outcomes could come to pass – a lousy fight that turns off viewers and a loss for now-undefeated Thurman. But though Guerrero is a live underdog, the odds are pretty good that we’ll get what Haymon wants – a good show and a Thurman victory.

Haymon is not known for putting his favored fighters in jeopardy. He’s gambled a bit this time because, after all, he’s got millions riding on his PBC boxing series, that will be set on different networks on different dates, with NBC, CBS, Spike, and ESPN scheduled already.

For this first show, we even get silver-tongued Marv Albert calling the action from “downtown” – the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“The Ghost” Guerrero, 32-2-1 (18 KOs), is no knockout artist. He couldn’t really penetrate Mayweather’s superb defense when they fought on pay-per-view two years ago and won only three rounds on all three judges’ cards. But he was never really hurt and never stopped trying.

Guerrero’s only other defeat was by split decision in a featherweight contest eight years ago against Gamaliel Diaz. A savvy welter with a solid chin, he’s scored victories over Joel Casamayor, Michael Katsidis, and Selcuk Aydin. He also won easily over Andre Berto back when Berto was considered one of the best.

Keith Thurman
Keith Thurman: Is “One Time” ready for prime time?

Thurman, on the other hand, is a knockout artist, a 26-year-old sporting a record of 24-0 (21 KOs). The trouble with knockout artists is that stoppages tend to get scarcer as they rise through the ranks and face tougher opposition. “One Time” Thurman has beaten Julio Diaz, Diego Gabriel Chaves, Carlos Quintana, and Orlando Lora, none of them pushovers. But he hasn’t faced anyone as imposing as Guerrero, 31.

If Thurman does well and looks impressive he’ll have passed a stiff test. In his last outing, although he overwhelmed then-undefeated Leonard Bundu by three scores of 120-107, there were lengthy periods of mediocre action, and the crowd got bored. He needs a sweet night to kill the sour taste of his last bout.

This is a good matchup, and junior welters Adrien Broner versus John Molina in the first TV bout are also worth watching.

Haymon’s super-secret operation that hides him and his doings from the media is ridiculous. Boxing is part of the entertainment spectrum, and he should be bending over backwards to get exposure, not going to great lengths to avoid it.

But getting boxing back on over-the-air networks is a big deal, and I applaud that accomplishment. It took some doing.

New York Times best-selling author Ivan G. Goldman’s Sick Justice: Inside the American Gulag was released in 2013 by Potomac Books. Watch for The Debtor Class: A Novel from Permanent Press in spring, 2015. More information here.

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